Penalty under Zamfara Sharia law for a man who has premarital sex [NGA36563.E]

The following information was provided by the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development. The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in London is a civil-military relations scholar who studied at the Universities of Lagos, Ife and London where he received his PhD in War Studies. He is an adviser to various organizations on African affairs, including the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group, International Crisis Group and Norwegian Council for Africa. In correspondence on 20 March 2001 he provided a list of Sharia offences and their prescribed punishments for Jigawa State. He advised that "whilst there are differences in implementation, this is closer to what operates in Zamfara State" (ibid.). The following are offences and punishments (Note: lashes = caning) under the relevant sections of the Jigawa Shari'ah Penal Code 2000:

Selected Provisions

Sections 126-127 Zina (fornication/adultery):
Unmarried: 100 lashes + 1 year in prison
Married: stoning to death (rajm)
Sections 128-129 Rape:
Unmarried: 100 lashes + 1 year in prison
Married: stoning to death (rajm)
In either case: payment to woman of dower (of equals if unmarried)
Sections 130-131 Sodomy (Liwat):
Unmarried: 100 lashes + 1 year in prison
Married: stoning to death (rajm)
Sections 132-133 Incest:
Unmarried: 100 lashes + 1 year in prison
Married: stoning to death (rajm)
Sections 134-135 Lesbianism (Sihaq):
50 lashes + up to 6 months imprisonment
Sections 136-137 Bestiality (Wat al-Bahimah):
50 lashes + 6 months imprisonment
Section 138 Gross Indecency:
40 lashes + 1 year imprisonment + possibility of a fine
Sections 139-143 Qadhf (False accusation of Zina):
80 lashes + testimony before a court not admissible unless the person repents; extends also to certain kinds of defamation
Sections 144-145 Theft (Sarigh):
First four offences: amputation of right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot
Subsequent offences: imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year
Sections 146-148 Theft
not amounting to hadd: Imprisonment for one year + caning up to 50 lashes
Sections 149-151 Shurbul-khamar (drinking or dealing in alcohol):
80 lashes for voluntarily drinking alcohol
40 lashes + 6 months for trading alcohol
Sections 152-155 Hirabah (robbery + certain kinds of assault):
without seizure of property: life imprisonment
property seized, but no death caused: amputation of right hand and left foot
death caused but no property seized: death sentence
murder + property taken: crucifixion
Sections 156-198 Various non-hudud offences from the older penal code given new punishments
Sections 199-206 Qisas (homicide):
punishable with death or where the relatives of the victim prefer, with the payment of diyyah (blood money) (ibid.).

Other sources provided information on the Sharia penalties for women involved in sexual relations outside of marriage. Two sources reported that a pregnant 17 year-old girl had been sentenced to 180 strokes of the cane (Newsday 16 Sept. 2000; AFP 23 Sept. 2000; The Houston Chronicle 16 Sept. 2000). Two sources described the charges as involving premarital sex (ibid.; AFP 23 Sept. 2000), while Newsday reported that she was "guilty of having sex illegally" (16 Sept. 2000). Two of the sources identified the girl as Bariya Magazu (ibid.; The Houston Chronicle 16 Sept. 2000). However, a PANA article on 28 January 2001 reported that the sentence to Bariya Magazu was "100 lashes for premarital sex."

Sources have also reported that the penalty under Sharia law for adultery is stoning to death (AFP 2 Aug. 2000; Vanguard 19 Feb. 2001), with the Governor of Zamfara State declaring that "married people who commit adultery will be stoned to death in his state" (ibid.).

In further information, Tempo reported on comments from a Nigerian women's group concerning Magazu's conviction:

The Zamfara Penal Code states that zina (adultery or fornication) is an offence when there is no doubt as to the consent and the circumstances of illegality of the act of intercourse between individuals who are not married to each other. Pregnancy is evidence of sexual intercourse. It is not evidence of willing participation in sex. Pregnancy can result from rape and coerced sex. Considerable doubts were raised about Bariya Magazu's consent. Since the offence has such a serious punishment, Muslim law generally requires four witnesses to the act and willing consent. ...
The Zamfara Penal Code also states that when a person under 18 is convicted of any offence, a fine or a punishment of 20 lashes can be substituted for the stated punishment. ...
The clear implication of this decision is that men may violate and rape girls and women with impunity in Zamfara, as they will be acquitted by Zamfara courts, so long as they make sure there are no witnesses to their crime (8 Feb. 2001).

No mention of the imposition of the death penalty under Sharia law in Nigeria could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 3 February 2001. Peter Cunliffe-Jones. "Anglican Leader to Meet Christian Minority in Northern Nigeria." (NEXIS)

_____. 23 September 2000. "Nigeria: Man to Lose Leg for Bicycle Theft." (FBIS-AFR-2000-0923 23 Sept. 2000/WNC)

_____. 2 August 2000. "Nigeria: Sixth Northern State Declares Islamic Law." (FBIS-AFR-2000-0802 2 Aug. 2000/WNC)

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), London. 20 March 2001. Correspondence from Director.

The Houston Chronicle. 16 September 2000. "Pregnant Teen's Sentence Fuels Penal-Code Debate." (NEXIS)

Newsday [New York]. 16 September 2000. "Punishment for Unwed Sex/Nigerian Court Orders Teen Caned After She Gives Birth." (NEXIS)

PANA [Dakar]. 28 January 2001. Segun Adeyemi. "Nigeria: Sharia Opposition Persists as State Marks Anniversary." (FBIS-AFR-2001-0129 28 Jan. 2001/WNC)

Tempo. 8 February 2001. "Nigeria; Women's Rights Group Condemns Sharia Whipping." (Africa News/NEXIS)

Vanguard [Apapa]. 19 February 2001. Demola Akinyemi. "Sharia: Adulterers Will be Stoned to Death, Sani Insists." [Accessed 19 Mar. 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

Inter-Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution in Nigeria. 1999. Editors: Ernest E. Uwazie, Isaac O. Albert, and Godfrey N. Uzoigwe.

IRB databases


Resource Centre. Nigeria country file. January 2000 - March 2001.

_____. Nigeria: Amnesty International country file. January 2000 - March 2001.

World News Connection (WNC)

Six non-documentary sources contacted did not provide information on the requested subject.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact one non-documentary source

Internet sites including:

Keesing's Record of World Events [Cambridge].

Nigeria Media Monitor

Post Express [Lagos].

Associated documents